My two little boys are at the age where listening and obeying my wishes are a daily challenge. For example, just the other day, the boys were jumping on my bed and I asked them to stop…Yes, I know they are boys and I am that mommy spoiling their fun, but my biggest concern was them crashing into our hard wood footboard and consequently a trip to the ER!
So, when I asked them to stop, they actually did stop! And just as I was walking away I thought with a smile on my face, “Wow, I have such obedient little boys!”
However, my thoughts quickly changed…because as soon as I left the room they began jumping again! Seriously? So I went back to my bedroom and this time with a little more sternness, I asked them again to stop jumping. They stopped…but again only until I left the room. This was one of those “Lord, help me!” moments because I was about to lose some self-control! I was certainly not happy that they didn’t obey my commands. In my opinion, my boys were showing me compliance…for a moment… but not obedience.
As a parent, I want obedience more than compliance from my children. And I believe that the Lord wants the same from us as well…as his children…obedience not just compliance.
I attended a bible study recently where the difference between compliance and obedience was briefly mentioned. I found this rather interesting and decided to look deeper into these 2 terms.
Most of us, myself included, would say that compliance and obedience pretty much mean the same thing. Even if you were to look these 2 words up in the dictionary, one word is included in the other’s definition.
Obedience-the act or practice of complying with or following the commands, restrictions, wishes, or instructions of
Compliance-the act of being in accordance or cooperating with wishes, requests, demands, requirements, or conditions (sometimes followed by with)
Pretty similar, wouldn’t you agree? So then how exactly are they different?
I believe that compliance is doing something even though you may not want to. You can comply…do as you are asked… but in your heart you may not respect or trust the person you are complying with. Just like my boys jumping on the bed…they stopped jumping but they didn’t really want to…which became apparent by them continuing to jump when I left the room!
I also believe that compliance can be forced upon a person. I want my children to obey, but sometimes out my frustration, I can force them to comply with my wishes. (For example, I can get my children off the bed thus preventing them from jumping. However, I would be forcing them to comply versus them wanting to obey.)
Obedience, on the other hand, is doing what is being asked because you truly want to in your heart. Obedience is a choice and cannot be forced. (Even though I wish I could force obedience with my children sometimes!!!) But again, it is a choice whether you obey or not. And this is the same in our relationship with God…we have a choice whether we obey or not obey His instructions and commands for us.
I really love character studies in the bible…basically taking an individual, studying their life and seeing what God has done in them and through them in their experiences.
One great example for us all to follow and truly a remarkable woman is Mary, Jesus’ mother! I absolutely love Mary! What kind of woman is worthy enough to be chosen by God to be the mother of His one and only precious son, Jesus? The answer is in her response.
So exactly how did Mary respond to this life changing request from God? How did she respond when God’s messenger told her that she was chosen to give birth to the Messiah named Jesus? (Hmmmm…if you were a virgin like Mary and received this news, you would probably be thinking… “You’ve got to be kidding God!” right?
Well, Mary’s response?…She called herself the handmaiden of the Lord!
Then Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said. And the angel left her. Luke 1:38 AMP
This statement from Mary can so easily be overlooked but it exemplifies something about Mary that is so profound that it cannot be overlooked!
In the Bible, a handmaiden (also called a maidservant) refers to a female slave whose will was not her own. Instead she was obligated to perform her master’s will without question or delay. A handmaiden would sit silently, watching for hand signals from her mistress which she would obey without question or hesitation.
We keep looking to the LORD our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal. Psalm 123:2
Mary had the heart of a handmaiden! She responded without any hesitation “let it be done according to what you have said.” Whatever God wanted, Mary as a humble handmaiden was willing to do…even if her obedience meant her life would be changed forever.
There are so many great things I can share about Mary. To name a few, she demonstrated a heart of devotion, commitment, and passion for the Lord. She demonstrated a heart of faith, complete surrender, and praise.
Oh my goodness! Have you ever read Mary’s song of praise called the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55? …Truly a woman who loved and worshipped her Lord and whose heart was saturated with the word of God. But the one thing that really stands out to me about Mary is…her love and obedience for the Lord…she had the heart of a handmaiden.
Do you have the heart of a handmaiden like Mary? Do you respond to God’s instructions and commands without question or hesitation…like Mary? With heartfelt obedience…a submissive heart of love, trust and immeasurable respect for the God who created you and this universe?
Or are you just complying with God? …Doing what he asks but without a heart that truly trusts and honors him? Grudgingly doing what the Lord wants you to do? Or doing it with a hesitant, critical or complaining heart?
As we can see, the difference between compliance and obedience is a matter of our heart. And love is the most important component in heartfelt obedience to God.
Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. John 14:21 NLT
If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6 NIV
Obedience flows out of love for God and leads to greater intimacy with him. The more we know God, the more we can trust him. The more we trust him, the more we love him. The more we love him, the more we will obey him. The more we obey him, the more we will learn about the trustworthiness of God.
I am sure we all have complied with God’s commands. But I pray that we would all follow Mary’s example, a handmaiden for the Lord…that we would continue to grow in our love for God and grow in the attitude of heartfelt love and submission to his authority.
My boys? Well, they are growing and learning as well. Their hearts have not yet grasped the essence of true love…Godly love… but as they continue to grow in their understanding of authority, respect, and trust, I believe their compliance will be replaced with a heart of loving obedience. Oh and I can’t wait!
1) Do you find yourself just complying with God and his commands? Or obeying him wholeheartedly?
2) What can you change in your relationship with God in order to obey and submit to him with all your heart? Spend more time with him…praying and reading his word?
1) If you are complying with God, pray to the Lord to change your heart. Consequently, your attitude towards his commands will change as well as your outward behavior.
With my whole heart have I sought You, inquiring for and of You and yearning for You; Oh, let me not wander or step aside [either in ignorance or willfully] from Your commandments. Psalm 119:10 AMP
2) Spend more time with God reading his word…then your love for him and trust in him will grow.
Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11